There has been widespread research into the lives and health of premature babies, and a new study has produced a significant finding this week.
According to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a small minority of babies born 22 weeks into pregnancy can be treated and survive, in some cases without complications.
With previous research suggesting that 22 weeks goes beyond the point of viability, this new research has raised major questions around the world regarding treatment.
The study, which was one of the largest regarding the care of very premature infants, noted that while the chances of survival are still low for babies born so early into pregnancy, high-quality treatment can significantly raise their chances.
With the research carried out across 5,000 babies born between 22 and 27 weeks gestation, it was found that 22-week-old babies did not survive without medical intervention. However, in the 78 cases where treatment was given, 18 survived; by the time these children were young toddlers, seven of them did not have moderate or severe impairments.
Furthermore, active treatment was given to 542 of the 755 babies born at 23 weeks. About a third of those babes survived, with about half of the survivors showing no significant problems.
Commenting on the study findings, neonatology expert Dr David Burchfield said: “It confirms that if you don’t do anything, these babies will not make it, and if you do something, some of them will make it.”
It is believed that this study will prove very significant when it comes to decisions about treatment and counselling of parents of premature babies.